When applying for a job at a top-tier consulting firm, you want to maximize your chances for success by working hard on the variables you can control.
You can’t control when you’ll be invited to interview, who will interview you, or what the subject matter of the case will be. But you can control your ability to perform well during the case.
Cases are designed to test your logic and problem solving skills. You may think they are testing your innate ability to solve problems, but solving cases is a skill that can be learned and improved. Just as you would have better chances of scoring well on the SAT, GRE or GMAT by studying the format of the test, doing practice tests, and taking a class to teach you best practices, you can improve your case solving skills.
At a minimum, you should prepare yourself for success by committing to practicing your case techniques for several weeks before your interview. Doing 50–70 cases is common. However, it is just as important to practice the right way.
- Understand and internalize the key frameworks, don’t try to memorize them. A common mistake is the desire to remember the solution to every single case in every single industry. Clearly, that’s impossible. Understanding how case solutions are structured and internalizing the key logical steps to take to solving a case is much more effective than memorizing fifteen frameworks and trying to think through what framework matches the problem you’ve been presented with during the interview.
- Get comfortable with oral math. Nothing is more off-putting than someone who cannot perform simple multiplication, division, taking percentages, etc. out loud. Wean yourself off of your calculator and learn how to make meaningful estimates that simplify your calculations.
- Remember that half of the evaluation will be on intangibles — your executive presence, your skill at building rapport with the interviewer, and your oral communication skills. If you think it’s all about the “right answer”, you’re wrong!
- Practice with a knowledgeable partner. Practicing written cases with your peers is OK — it helps you internalize the logic for cracking cases. However, a peer will not know what the evaluation criteria are for top tier firms and won’t be able to evaluate how you are performing versus your competition. For a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, you should do some case interview practice with someone from the industry — either an industry contact who is willing to practice with you, or a firm like the Career Consulting Academy.
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